New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Attracting Women for Engineering Education. Fighting Masculinity Cultures through Interdisciplinarity, Gender Studies and Mono-Educational Settings in Degree Courses

Felizitas Sagebiel, School of Human and Social Sciences, Bergische Universität Wuppertal (Germany)


A strong gender segregation in engineering disciplines with a low proportion of women could be found in all western European countries. In looking for explanations content and climate of teaching in culture of ‘dominant masculinity’ are blamed as reasons. In response to this situation in Germany several so called mono-educational models were created in degree courses with a traditionally very small number of female students. The aims of those degree courses were to increase attractiveness for female students. Being located in German universities of applied sciences with their practical orientation the acceptance of possible employers was important too. Changing the organisational culture was combined with a new interdisciplinary curricula, offering at the same time predominantly teaching methods in small groups. Interdisciplinary degree courses in engineering exist likewise in engineering departments of universities and technical universities. So it could be proved if interdisciplinary curricula were successful in attracting and retaining women students. By interdisciplinarity, gender studies and a greater amount of socio-economics students can develop a broader horizon for technologies and especially women can be attracted who otherwise would not have been interested in engineering. Non-technical subjects can be technology in society including gender and culture. The impact can be a critique of technology pointing to social and gender bias. But contents also can be complementary as languages, communication and conflict management techniques. Opening engineering departments to humanities, social sciences and gender studies can broaden students’ horizon and by this way hopefully encouraging students to cross their ‘disciplines’ borders and work co-operatively. In several European Commission projects (INDECS, Womeng, MOTIVATION) these ideas of changing the educational culture were analyzed in different cases and in international comparison. These measures successful integrated in engineering degree courses, drop out rate of women would decrease. Document analysis of different material (internet pages, flyers, prospects, statistics, internal faculty and company papers give information about accompanying measures (integrated internships, welcome meetings, mentoring-, equal opportunity-, gender mainstreaming-, diversity-programs) gives indicators about women friendly and traditional masculine institutional characteristics of an engineering degree course. The paper will summarize the results from different projects and discuss some conclusions.

Keywords: Gender, masculinity culture, interdisciplinary, single sex education, drop out decrease;

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